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Re: Awards, etc.

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  • David Lenander
    Re: the children s nominees, I had found Dalkey s _The Nightingale_ a pleasant but fairly undistinguished book when it was a finalist for the adult award a
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 16, 1999
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      Re: the children's nominees, I had found Dalkey's _The Nightingale_ a pleasant
      but fairly undistinguished book when it was a finalist for the adult award a few
      years back, and expected to have a similar reaction to the two new Japanese
      fantasies, _Little Sister_ and _The Heavenward Path_, which I needed to read
      when the latter became a finalist for the award this year. To my surprise, I
      found the former excellent. Original, beautifully done, incidentally very
      nicely presented as a book (I loved the physical package), and mythopoeic. For
      reasons I can't explain, I had a lot of difficulty finding the sequel (_Path_),
      most of the public libraries in the twin cities haven't purchased it, and it was
      no longer in most bookstores. I finally obtained it at Uncle Hugo's SF
      bookstore last week and finished it this past weekend. It's even better than
      _Little Sister_, I think that Dalkey has been thoughtful about the structure of
      the two books together, and has stiffened the fine characterizations and plot
      with a lot of Ideas, which however are never obtrusive. I ought to have taken
      the enthusiastic recommendations of Laura Krentz and Ruth Berman in Once Upon a
      Time (the Mythopoeic Society Children's Fantasy Special Interest Group APA) more
      seriously and read these books long ago. It may be that children's books are
      Dalkey's true metier, as much as I've been enjoying the Blood of the Goddess
      books, they somehow haven't really convinced me in the way that this book does.
      Or it may be that the refined Japanese setting matches Dalkey's style better
      than the exhuberant Indian masala. I will have to reread _The Nightingale_. My
      choice for the award this year.

      But overall, the children's list was very strong. I had some reservations about
      Jones' _Dark Lord of Derkholm_, but the fascinating and very convincing
      characterization of Derk's children, some human, some griffin, amazed me, I
      can't think when I've seen this before. The usual DWJ satire and humor mixed
      with the usual extra complicated plot and a touch of the numinous raised this
      above many of her books, though not to the level of _Fire and Hemlock_ or
      _Spellcoats_ or _Howl's Moving Castle_.

      I think Gail Carson Levine's _Ella Enchanted_ is rather old news at this point,
      having been a Newbery Honor book last year. It ought to have been on our final
      list last year, though the paperback edition gave it a second chance for this
      year. Nevertheless, it's extremely well done and quite worthy of comparisons to
      Diana Wynne Jones's work. There were rough spots, and while the use of
      "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" is mythic, and it certainly creates its own
      mythopoeic framework, it seems to me less "mythopoeic" in our sense, certainly
      there is less of the numinous or sense of wonder. But it's a fine work, and
      richly deserving of any praise. Ruth Berman had some interesting analysis in
      Once Upon a Time that I don't quite recall, except that I didn't quite agree
      with her about the book's ultimate failures. It will be interesting to see what
      Levine comes up with in any future fantasy that she writes.

      Reading Gerald Morris's _The Squire's Tale_, I thought that we might be
      discovering someone who might be otherwise overlooked, but with a new sequel and
      very positive reviews of the first book, I guess not. Still, it's deserving of
      its positive reviews, I thought. I think Grace Funk wrote about it in the
      current OUaT, and agreed with my previous notes about it that it is an
      outstanding book. Another fine contender, and I look forward to reading the
      sequel.

      In this company, J.K.Rowling's _Harry Potter and the Philosopher's
      Stone_ (or "and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the U.S.--I could rant about this, but
      will spare you for the moment) is decidedly outclassed. But it's a fun story,
      with an interesting treatment of school sports in the air-soccer/tennis-like
      game which gave it something unique. Not really as well done as such similar
      books as Jane Yolen's _Wizards' Hall_ or Le Guin's _A Wizard of Earthsea_ or
      fantasies like Jones's _Witch Week_ or Roald Dahl's _Matilda_ (I'm convinced tat
      Dahl provides Rowling with something of a template) and many others in which
      school and magic are mixed, and there is little that is mythopoeic or full of
      wonder, but it's just a lot of fun with a pace that never flags. It's no wonder
      that it's selling like hotcakes to adults and children and hitting best-seller
      lists. If it doesn't really deserve such sales, given that it's really not very
      original or substantive, serious or artful, compared with (for example) the
      other finalists on this list, then again, its a much finer book than many on the
      bestseller lists, and I think it's a very respectable book. It may be that
      Rowling will eventually develop her own distinctive style and virtues, as the
      publishers have already committed to six sequels. For now, though, it's a very
      pleasant read, a pastiche of much that's fine in other writers. If it does win
      our award I wouldn't be embarrased to list it.

      Responding to the message of <199906161256.HAA17716@...>
      from mythsoc@onelist.com:
      >
      > From: "Matthew R. Williams" <director@...-wi.org>
      >
      > On the subject of the books up for award, I thought "stardust" was kind of
      > formulaic, but really enjoyed "High House" and "Harry Potter and the
      > Sorcerer's Stone", both of which I found very imaginative. I thought the
      > idea of a whole world inside a house was very well thought out and I enjoyed
      > the references to Lewis, MacDonald, etc.
      >
      > Matthew R. Williams
      > Library Director
      > Watertown Public Library
      > Watertown, WI 53094
      > director@...-wi.org
      >
      > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      > The Literary Guild´┐Ż offers you half off publishers' edition prices on
      > the books you love to read. Get 5 books for only $2 + 1 free with
      > membership. Go to http://www.onelist.com/ad/doubleday7
      > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
      >
      > .


      David Lenander, Library Manager I
      Bio-Medical Library Access Services work: (612)626-3375
      Circulation, Core Collections & Reserve Desks home: (651)292-8887
      Diehl Hall/505 Essex SE fax: (612)626-2454
      University of Minnesota
      Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

      e-mail: d-lena@...
      web-page: http://www.tc.umn.edu/nlhome/m391/d-lena/BreeMoot.html
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